Jen Minkman is the Dutch author of Shadow of Time, a truly original paranormal romance which made its English-language debut in December.
All Hannah needs is a nice and quiet vacation after her first year of teaching French at a high school. She joins her brother Ben for the summer in their mom’s log cabin in Arizona. There, she meets Josh again, Ben’s childhood friend from the Navajo reservation. The little boy from the rez has grown up fast, and Hannah can’t help but feeling more for him than just friendship.
But fate apparently has something else in store for her. And it’s not peace and quiet. Night after night, Hannah is plagued by strange nightmares about the past of Navajo Nation and terrifying shadows chasing her. They seem to come closer – and why is Josh always present in her dreams? –Synopsis from Amazon.com
What made you want to write about the Navajo Nation?
I have a soft spot for Native American spirituality, but of course the entire scope of Native American spirituality and history is far too extensive to cram into one novel. So I had to pick a tribe. I chose Navajo Nation because I wanted my book to be set near a lake, so Lake Powell fit the bill.
There’s a lot of history woven into the story; how much research did you have to do and how did you go about it?
I had to research SO much. Sometimes, I would literally look up stuff in books and on the internet after every sentence I wrote, because I wanted to make sure I had it right. The first draft of the book contained even more history, but I cut most of that out again to make sure it wouldn’t slow down the story too much. I bought books, movies, dictionaries and spent hours and hours studying the Navajo culture every evening while listening to Radio Powwow and burning Navajo incense. I wasn’t in a relationship back then – that really helped. 🙂
Your book deals a bit with issues of Native American independence. What are your own feelings, if any, on the subject?
I guess I would have liked for American history to have run a different course. I do feel that the Navajo culture would have changed significantly even if the European colonists had been more humane, but I think they truly lost something there that will never come back again. Despite the fact that Navajo Nation is independent and has its own government, I think they could have been better off without US influence. Without alcohol, drugs, or uranium mines, the place would have looked quite different today.
What made you decide to publish independently?
Well, in my own country, I am traditionally published. But the chances of being translated into English as a Dutch writer are very, very slim. So I decided to translate my books myself so I could reach a wider audience of readers worldwide. Since most of the Anglophone publishing world works with agents, I chose to self-publish because that would be a quicker way to get my book on the market. Besides, I already took the long and winding road to traditional publication once – I wasn’t exactly looking forward to walking that road again!
Who or what are the biggest influences on your writing?
Reading other books and watching good movies. Sometimes I see something on TV or in the cinema that inspires me (without me ‘stealing’ the idea, they are just flashes of inspiration!) and some books I read evoke so much emotion in me that I strive to write something that will similarly evoke those emotions in other people. I guess I am a very emotionally-driven writer, but I always try to make my stories touching, not sentimental.
You have a day job as a secondary-school English teacher. How do you fit writing into your schedule?
I work four days a week, so the other three days are reserved for writing. Also, once I’m running with an idea for a book, I can’t stop myself from writing in the evenings when all the work is done. My husband works a night schedule four nights a week, so after he leaves at 9.30 pm, I still have a few hours I can use to write my stories in peace and quiet!
Is this your first English-language book?
It is my first novel in English. I also published a small poetry volume in English, in April 2012.
Do you have plans to translate any more books into English?
Yes, actually, I am planning to translate each and every book I write from now on. Not only is it a good way to get known across the border, it is also a very good method to revise your own manuscripts. When you’re translating a story, sometimes you suddenly realize that certain dialogues or scenes just don’t work, so you cut them out or change them.
Find Alexis Arendt’s review of Shadow of Time on Goodreads.